Thursday, October 20, 2011

Verdict against Bolt will not be appealed

Mainly on cost grounds, presumably. There was a good chance the High court would have struck it down. So we are all losers from this now

THE Herald and Weekly Times will not appeal against the Federal Court decision against Herald Sun columnist Andrew Bolt and will be forced to publish a prominent corrective notice twice in the next fortnight.

The notice, which outlines the case brought against Bolt by Pat Eatock on behalf of other "fair-skinned Aboriginals" and the court's reasoning why two of Bolt's articles breached the Racial Discrimination Act, is required to be published "adjacent" to Bolt's regular column.

This means the finding against Bolt will take up to two-thirds of the prime real estate in the opinion and editorial pages of the country's highest-selling daily newspaper. The 500-word notice is supplied by the Federal Court.

While Ms Eatock sought an apology from HWT, judge Mordecai Bromberg said he was "not persuaded that I should compel HWT to articulate a sentiment that is not genuinely held". He said the notice would redress the hurt felt by the applicants, restore their self-esteem, inform readers and "help to negate the dissemination of racial prejudice".

HWT reserved the right to appeal against yesterday's court orders, which included costs against the company for the high-profile trial. But in a minor win for HWT (owned by News Limited, publisher of The Australian), costs were awarded against Ms Eatock for the postponement of a directions trial last December.

Ms Eatock rejected a confidential offer of settlement from HWT on March 21 .

The costs of the postponement, while not as sizeable as the costs for the ultimate trial, were described by one party as "not insubstantial".

Justice Bromberg had earlier found the articles by Bolt contravened section 18C of the RDA and had no exemptions under the act.

The notice states they were "reasonably likely to offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate some Aboriginal persons of mixed descent" and they were "not written or published reasonably and in good faith".

In a statement, HWT argued there were a number of grounds for appeal but it would not appeal.

"Instead, it is our view that section 18 of the Racial Discrimination Act overly detracts from free speech and should be revisited by the legislature," the company said.


ABC chairman wants to avoid bias

Maurice Newman is ABC chairman. and his views below are admirable but he has no control over programming so don't expect results

WHEN polarisation and partisanship are in bloom all around, the only responsible course for the public broadcaster is the pluralist path. I understand perfectly well that one person's pluralism is often another's bias and that many media academics insist it is simply impossible to achieve.

I also appreciate only too well the allure of the catchphrases you find in discussions about journalistic practice now, such as transparency is the new objectivity. I get all this.

Yet I'm also chairman of an organisation whose responsibilities are bound by statute. And the ABC Act of 1983 is pretty clear on the subject of impartiality.

Freedom of expression is a precious gift, most valued when it ceases to exist. Yet I observe an unhealthy tendency in politics and in society generally to tolerate its abrogation. A growing chorus of voices is directed to shutting down certain narratives. We are being coerced into yielding to self-appointed authority and into accepting without question dubious propositions that support just one side of the argument. Ad hominem attacks substitute for logical and evidence-based discourse that would otherwise allow viewers and listeners the opportunity to decide for themselves where they stand on the issues.

Last year in Beijing, I attended an international conference. On the topic of freedom of the press, media representatives from across the world were asked whether the prophet Mohammed should be treated differently from any other subject. On a show of hands a clear majority voted him off limits. If the prophet is a no-go area, who or what else should be quarantined?

Like forbidden fruit, however, censorship heightens the appetite for what is kept from view and gives added force to rumour, speculation and untested assumption.

The ABC's Jonathan Holmes wrote this year: "Strange though it may seem, a lot of journalists get into the business for the same reason that a lot of politicians do: they want to change the world." However, if journalists are given unrestricted licence by their employers to propagate a selective truth to change the world to their thinking, it is possible neither the public nor the media will be well served. Unlike elected representatives, it is difficult to hold journalists to account and they, no matter their conviction, have no monopoly on wisdom.

Trust is an essential ingredient in respect and there is growing evidence that the public's trust in the media is declining. What are the consequences when there is a public perception that our media is becoming an increasingly unreliable reference point? Who is the public expected to believe?

Amid all the partisan noise, the ABC's responsibility is enlarged. It must offer not the illusion of comprehensiveness but the genuine article. Not some voices but all of them. The ABC town square must be authentically pluralist. Partisanship may affect editorial choices elsewhere, but the ABC must remain dedicated to objectivity and impartiality.

The impression that powerful vested interests wield power over the media can be as easily gained by what is not reported as by what is. Biologist Richard Palmer from the University of Alberta in Canada shares this view. He says scientists selectively report data and find ways to confirm their preferred hypothesis, disregarding what they don't want to see. "Our beliefs are a sort of blindness," he has said,adding once he realised how it was everywhere in science, he became depressed.

And it's no different in economics and finance, where collective illusions also exist.

World leaders, treasury officials, central bankers, Wall Street oligarchs and the mainstream media seem more comfortable selling hope than they are confronting reality. And each time that they have inevitably been proven spectacularly wrong, a little more public faith and trust in these public figures and institutions has been lost.

Sheltering the public from the truth or spinning the facts may temporarily save the hide of the political and financial insiders but, in so doing, the poor unprepared populace is exposed to the full extent of forces the orthodox narrative never foretold. This does not go unnoticed and leads to feelings of betrayal.

So why is it, then, that the world's media has allowed Alan Greenspan and Ben Bernanke, who speak with all the authority and back-up their positions confer, to get away with so many bad calls and so much wealth destruction? Why should they still be credible? Perhaps postmodernist economics has so captivated our journalists that they have suspended the spirit of inquiry, open-mindedness and scrutiny that an informed democracy so desperately needs.

Under relentless pressure, classical economics has become all but a relic of a bygone era. Yet the work of classical economists most likely holds the solution to today's economic ills. It seems many journalists have become subject to the same blindness that Palmer has found in scientists.

In this world of uncertainty, of knowing who to trust, I believe the ABC is wonderfully placed to pursue pluralism with increased enthusiasm and authority so that we accommodate as many voices as are readily available to us.

As the chairman of a taxpayer-funded national broadcaster, I realise that I may be criticised as someone who is sheltered from the cut and thrust of day to day commercial life. I can assure you that I am no stranger to that, but perhaps not having to answer to shareholders every six months allows me the luxury of reflection and distance that pursuing profits may preclude. While the ABC is fortunate still to rate highly on the trust factor, we are not immune, nor should we be, from public scrutiny. Like everyone else in the media business, we must honour the compact we have with our audiences. Once lost, trust may never be recovered, which is why I care so much about our performance.

Partisanship may well become the dominant model within the media in years to come, yet by our insistence on maintaining a public, pluralist presence, pluralism itself ultimately will prevail.


Australians are asset rich

Our incomes are not among the highest but we own lots of valuable stuff -- mainly real estate. Poorer Americans tend to live in trailers (caravans). Very few Australians do, mainly a few retirees

AUSTRALIANS are the world's wealthiest people on a median basis and second in the world behind Switzerland on an average basis, according to a new report.

The Credit Suisse report also notes the European sovereign debt crisis is not expected to stop a new generation of millionaires emerging in the next five years, with the greatest wealth growth likely to occur in the booming Asia-Pacific.

On a median measure Australian adults are worth nearly $US221,704 ($217,559), nearly four times the amount of each US adult. The proportion of Australian adults worth more than $US100,000 is eight times the global average.

The high wealth rate in Australia is attributed to the strong Australian dollar, property ownership levels and a robust labour market. Australia also has one of the highest home ownership rates in the world, with property making up about 65 per cent of consumers' wealth.

The Credit Suisse Global Wealth report shows worldwide wealth is estimated at $US231 trillion and is forecast to hit $US314 trillion by 2016, despite the current market upheaval. The report says there are 27.9 million millionaires in the world, of which Australia accounts for 4 per cent.

Credit Suisse forecasts that number will reach 45.6 million in the next five years with the greatest growth to come from China. It is estimated that the world's fastest-growing economy now has 1.01 million millionaires and that could rise to 2.4 million as the nation's industrialisation and urbanisation continues.


Barrister Tony Morris says Queensland Health faces greater crisis than Jayant Patel affair

THE man who led the original Bundaberg Hospital inquiry says Queensland Health faces "its greatest crisis" - far more serious for patient outcomes than the Jayant Patel fiasco.

Barrister Tony Morris's assessment comes as the state's health system battles more than 4000 work bans imposed by hospital support workers in their fight for higher pay.

Mr Morris, QC, whose 2005 inquiry was cut short after accusations of bias, writes in today's print edition of The Courier-Mail that Queensland Health should brace for resignations unless something is done urgently to address "gross pay discrepancies".

"Queensland Health is facing its greatest crisis - one far more serious, in terms of health outcomes, than the recent payroll debacle; more serious than the Jayant Patel fiasco," Mr Morris, QC, writes.

Queensland Health Deputy Director-General John Cairns yesterday said the industrial action varied at each site, with non-urgent elective surgery having to be cancelled at some public hospitals.

"Across the state, there are 4303 work bans in place," Mr Cairns said.

Unions representing about 30,000 hospital workers are threatening to ramp up their industrial action with more bans from tomorrow, including a refusal to take blood from patients in non-emergency situations.

But Alex Scott, the secretary of Queensland public sector union Together, last night said members were hopeful 11th-hour negotiations with Queensland Health would resolve the dispute. "We haven't exhausted all options and we're trying to do whatever we can to avoid any action that will impact on patient care," he said.

The Bligh Government has offered the workers a 2.5 per cent-a-year pay rise over the next three years, but unions are angry this does not keep up with inflation.

Mr Cairns said that if employees were prepared to introduce "realistic productivity measures", the savings could be passed on in the form of increases above 7.5 per cent. "Without these productivity measures, union claims for increases above 7.5 per cent over three years will impact on our ability to fund ... patient services," he said.

Acting Premier Andrew Fraser said he was confident the dispute would be resolved soon, with no disruption to patients. "Patient safety is the priority here," he said. "We want to reach an agreement where we can pay our health workers a pay rise that's responsible for the budget and responsible for the economy."


1 comment:

Paul said...

Funny to see how a push for higher pay from the already relatively feather-bedded non-clinical employees of QH is coinciding with a push to close beds and reduce clinical staff in a system already at the point of collapse. Recruitment of junior nurses up here has been slashed next year to far below attrition rates, and those still working are being flogged to death with sick leave not being replaced (doubtful they even can replace it at all most days). Things are getting uglier, and QH is employing more and more "Consultants" to work out how to cut costs. Its starting to feel a bit like Victoria under Joan Kirner in the late 80s-early 90s with that spinning-out-of-control quality.